Go Away, Atheist! The Awful Truth About Oxford Houses (Part 2)
I started this project with Part 1 here.
They either hate you, fear you, or both.
Atheists remain the most hated and distrusted group in America, even in 2020, as the nation’s numbers of people identifying as “non-religious” continue to rise. The number of atheists has also risen, whether that’s from more people disbelieving in any gods, or just more people openly saying so.
What’s In Their Guidelines About It?
Oxford House has not taken an official position on whether atheists are allowed or disallowed in their houses. It’s supposed to be up to each house to vote in new members, and none of their interview questions asks about god-belief. I do believe OH does not discriminate based on religion, but lack of religion may be a different issue. In my experience, and in that of my source for the following story, it never would have occurred to any of the members of any house to even ask about god-belief because it is assumed that “everyone believes in something.”
How do they discriminate?
My source for the following story was accepted into a house without being asked about their belief status and was promptly kicked out 3 days later. My source is convinced it was due to their lack of belief.
Here is what happened…
The morning after my source had moved into a new Oxford House, a house member they had not previously met  started asking probing questions about their “higher power.” Things like “What is your higher power?” and “What do you believe in?” My source, not wanting to upset anyone, simply said that they didn’t believe in anything supernatural and that the matter was private. No mention of the scary “A” word.
My source had also attended SMART Recovery meetings where they were available prior to moving in and found the science-based approach to recovery very helpful, although they fully participated in and never complained about the requirements to attend a recovery meeting (mostly 12-step ones) each day as required as a new member of the house. My source mentioned the SMART meetings they had gone to previously in an attempt to change the subject to something less invasive than the house member’s interrogation. House member said they had never heard of SMART Recovery. No big deal, thought my source. Many people haven’t.
That doesn’t sound too awful, right? But it continues…
It soon became clear that my source answering honestly and having a different set of beliefs seemed to cause serious friction with the probing house member, who then proceeded to share my source’s lack of beliefs with the other house members some time later that day.
The next day my source was required to take another drug test at 11 PM after coming in from a meeting. My source stated that this was not a problem and being randomly tested for drug and alcohol use was to be expected in a sober living environment. My source was surprised that the test at 11 PM was given less than 48 hours after the first test they took when they first arrived at the house. My source stated that they had been sober for more than 4 months by this point — longer than any of the other house members. My source also stated that the house members seemed disappointed that they passed the drug test and seemed to be acting “weird.” My source also stated that the house members seemed shocked that my source had no objection to taking a test, and they later realized that it was possible that the house members were trying to bait my source into getting upset about it or refusing to take it, which are both grounds for immediate expulsion from the house.
Ok, so what next?
The very next evening, my source was called to an “emergency house meeting” with all of the house members present and was told that the meeting was called in order to vote on kicking my source out of the house. My source was then accused of “disruptive behavior,” “relapse behavior,” and of “making threats and accusations” and “being rude to the other house members” and was promptly voted out at 10 PM. My source was given 15 minutes to pack up their belongings and to vacate.
How did this happen?
My source got in touch with a person from another house who was a chairperson in the local association of houses. As it turns out, those house members had already told the chairperson their plans to evict my source, and when my source told the chairperson that the accusations were not only false, but completely illogical, the chairperson added a few false accusations of their own and told my source that they must not have been “a good fit for the house.”
Just for not believing in anything supernatural?
So yes, it is possible to be evicted or expelled from an Oxford House — with no notice or time to prepare — simply for not believing in a god and not lying about one’s beliefs.
This may not be as much of an issue in different parts of the country, but for anyone who is applying to live in an OH, it is probably best to ask up front during the interview if any of the house members will have any problem with an atheist living with them. It sure beats thinking you have found a place to call home for a while, only to be thrown out three days later with nowhere to go at 11:00 at night.
Continue with Part 3:
- ^This happened in an OH in the Southeastern US.
- ^Oxford House interviews are typically done over the phone with at least 75% of the house members present and on speaker to interview the applicant. It is common to not meet all of the house members in person for a day or two after moving in due to work schedules and overnights away from the house.